Tag Archive for how to shop at an estate sale

Finding Bargains at Estate and Tag Sales

During the summer, garage sales and yards sales seem to be around every corner.  A garage sale (yard sale, rummage sale) can be a great way to buy items at sometimes less than 10% of their original cost.

A variation of the garage sale (or even an estate yard sale) is the tag sale or estate tag sale.  The general difference, at least in my area, is that the estate/tag sale is generally selling the entire contents of a home on behalf of an estate or due to the owner moving.  The house is opened to the public during the sale hours.  Some rooms or sections of the house are usually marked private or not part of the sale.

Another big difference with the estate sale (or tag sale) is that it is usually set up and run by a group or a small business who receives a commission from the total proceeds of the sale.  In my area, it seems to be two or so main groups of women who are running the sales.  I like this, because as soon as I walk in, I feel some familiarity with the rules and organization of the way the sale will be run.

In the estate sale, you will often find high-quality collectibles for sale.  Small and large appliances, tools, lawn equipment, furniture, and other larger ticket items are also standard items at these types of sales. Sets of dishes, linens, cooking utensils, and other standard household items, often new in the package, are also frequent items found at these sales.

Another big benefit is that the estate or tag sales are usually much better organized and most of the goods displayed are clean and marked well with the size, price, and with a note as to whether the item works or not.

Since the sale is usually inside of a house, the sale goes on, rain, shine, or snow.

Very small items will also be sold.  This usually includes full or half-used cans and bottles of cleaning supplies, beauty items, and even kitchen items, such as spices and ingredients.  I often puzzle at these.  They are for sale at nearly every estate sale I attend, so someone must be buying them!

In general, the estate sales will be selling the contents of a house that was owned by an older person and has many year’s worth of accumulations.  A moving sale may be from any age group, including a family with small children. The types of items for sale will often be very different between a moving sale and an estate sale.

Estate (tag, moving) sales will have their own rules.  In my area, it depends on the group running the sale, but in general, the first day of the sale is a Thursday and all goods sell for 100% of the tag price.  By Friday afternoon, the items are selling for 25% off the tag price.  Saturday morning usually sees 50% off and Saturday afternoon is 75% off.

I usually find that the Thursday prices are nearly overpriced. I would only buy something on these days if it was a rare collectible, an item that was something I’d been looking for and I didn’t want to risk it being sold if I left and came back, or an item that was ok in price and I didn’t want to waste the gas and time to come back on Saturday.

So perhaps the best way to approach these sale is to carefully read the ad.  Estate sales usually have much longer, better descriptions than the usual garage sale.  If there are items that you are interested in, or if it just sounds like a fun way to spend an hour or two, then go on the first day of the sale.  Ask about the price-drop rules at the purchase table.  Buy only the things that you absolutely could not risk losing.  Return either on the last day or on the day when the price will be worth the purchase.

Once you have attended a sale that you like, be sure to ask the person in charge if they have a mailing list or other alert list so that you can attend more of their sales.

I recently found a website that I like that lists local estate sales and tag sales.  Most listings include photos which really helps!  The website is estatesales.net and I’d recommend this one first.

Other websites to try:

www.estatesales.org  (yes it is different from estatesales.net and seems not quite as good)



You could also contact the National Assoc. of Estate Sales Coordinators and Liquidators to find if any members are in your area.

Once you know the names of the local groups that run the sales, you can search online to see if they have their own websites.  If so, these sites will usually have many more photos and descriptions of the items they are preparing to sell.

Also try looking through the ads in your local paper’s classified section.  You may also check the yellow pages of your local phone directory for estate liquidators, auctioneers, or used items.

Of course, always remember that it’s not a bargain at all if you buy things you don’t need!

Have fun and use your bargaining skills.  That’s The Fat Dollar way.